The hon. Gentleman in his Question uses a phrase sometimes used by social workers but not one, I think, which the House would wish to adopt in our debates. Having said that, my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for the Home Department, the Secretary of State for Scotland, the Minister of Housing and Local Government, the Minister of Health and the Minister of Social Security all have re- sponsibilities for dealing with the group of people the hon. Gentleman has in mind, with my right hon. Friend the Minister without Portfolio exercising a co-ordinating function.
Is the Prime Minister aware that when the right hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) was Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, we always got a sympathetic hearing from him on the problem. Now that he has left, it appears that there is a lack of co-ordination among the different Ministers. Would it not be the Government's official policy to instruct voluntary agencies such as the Simon Community to play the maximum role they can in dealing with the situation and ask local authorities to help in providing premises?
I do not accept that there is any change in either the system of co-ordination or the sympathy with which the problem is approached. I agree that, in this field of activity, the answer lies in encouraging the efforts of all voluntary bodies concerned as well as the local authorities. One body which has done a great deal for this is the Simon Community, with which the hon. Gentleman has been in touch, and it was that body which he brought to meet my right hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton).
I know my hon. Friend's views about this, but I think he is going too far in suggesting that the problems of all these people, including, for example, those who have been variously called tramps, vagrants, itinerants, casuals, wayfarers, drifters, misfits, alcoholics, crude spirit drinkers, and ex-prisoners and mentally ill people are due to the prices and incomes policy.